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Trump: School Safety Top Priority In Governors Meeting; Wounded Student Thanks Doctors, First Responders; Florida Lawmakers Call On Broward Sheriff To Resign; Congress Under Pressure To Act On Gun Control. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 11:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Kate Bolduan in New York.

Right now, at the White House, President Trump is meeting with the nation's governors and we should hear from him at any moment. Gun violence and school safety are at the top of the agenda, less than two weeks now after the shooting rampage at that South Florida high school.

And that state's governor, Rick Scott, is also there at the White House and he is backing the president's call to raise the age limit to buy some guns. Both men are facing pushback from the gun lobby and fellow Republicans who oppose even modest reforms.

Governor Scott has also launched a state investigation into the Broward County Sheriff's Department and its response before and during the massacre.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Parkland, Florida, with that fallout, but let's begin at the White House with Kaitlan Collins. So, it will be interesting to see if the president gives more clarity on what he wants done when it comes to gun control. What is the level of confidence?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Fred, it certainly will be interesting because as a new CNN poll shows, 70 percent of Americans are now in favor of stricter gun laws, especially in light of that tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida.

So, the president has made several proposals so far, including improving background checks, expanding that system, raising the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, something that has been endorsed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, but rejected by the NRA, who campaigned on behalf of the president during the election.

He's also proposed ending the sale of bump stocks, but his biggest proposal easily by far has been arming teachers with weapons. Now the president offers a few nuances of this saying he only wants it to be teachers who are well adept at handling a firearm, he would give them a bonus and whatnot if they did.

But this is an idea that has seen a lot of widespread support. So, it would be interesting to see what those governors and the president is meeting with face to face with today, what their ideas are on this, especially after over the weekend when the president tweeted that it would be something that he believes would be left up to states and not something that would come from the federal government.

Now, his daughter, Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser in this White House, was actually asked if she thought arming teachers would be a solution to prevent mass shootings like this one. And here is what she had to say.


IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think that having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students or his students, and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea, but it is an idea that needs to be discussed.


COLLINS: So, you see there Ivanka was wavering a little bit on that idea from the president, certainly his biggest idea so far but, Fred, we're at the point where the White House is going to have to start offering more specific ideas if they want to see this be a legislative solution on Capitol Hill because as you know, you cannot dictate policy on Twitter.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

Meanwhile, the Broward County sheriff is facing blistering criticism for his department's handling of the attack. Dozens of Republican lawmakers are calling for Scott Israel to be suspended amid reports that four of his deputies arrived during the shooting but did not enter the school to confront the shooter.

On CNN yesterday, Sheriff Israel says his department is also investigating at least two calls about gunman, Nikolas Cruz, and the potential danger that he posed.


SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercise my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing leadership?

ISRAEL: Yes, Jake. There's a lot of things we have done throughout -- you don't measure the person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- these deputies received the training they needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: And just moments ago, a powerful and emotional news conference by 17-year-old, Maddy Wilford, she was shot several times in that attack. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Parkland, Florida. Kaylee, we first saw Maddy when the president and first lady visited her at the hospital. How is she doing?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. Well, to hear her doctors say today that she is very lucky to be alive was striking. Maddy survived a gunshot wound of a large caliber that pierced through her chest, her abdomen, and also her arm.

First responder detailed when an officer first approached her on the school campus by the color of her skin, her paleness thinking she was already deceased, but a shake to her got a reaction out of her and they realized it was time to get her out of there as fast as possible and to medical attention.

Maddy and her family expressed tremendous gratitude for all those who've helped her survive.


[11:05:08] MADDY WILFORD, PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I'm so grateful to be here and it wouldn't be possible without those officers and first responders and these amazing doctors and especially all the love that everyone has sent. I was sitting on my couch today just thinking about all the letters and gifts everyone has given and just, like, all the love that has been passed around. I wouldn't be here without it.


HARTUNG: Maddy endured three surgeries during her time in the hospital. Her doctors say the wounds to her chest and her abdomen had healed, the benefit of being young. But it will take longer for the wound to her right arm to heal as will the emotional healing process, Fred. But to see Maddy be able to stand up from that presser, walk out the room with nothing more than a cast was emotional for all who witnessed it.

WHITFIELD: And the Broward County Police Department, it is facing a lot of questions about those missed warning signs and inaction. The sheriff says he is welcoming these investigations and will help facilitate in any way possible.

HARTUNG: Fred, we have just learned that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, their review has begun. That's after Governor Scott called 2for an immediate investigation. The FDLE now saying that they are reviewing the response of all law enforcement agencies who provided initial response to the shooting.

Fred, you mentioned those missed warning signs, so much frustration being pointed towards the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the missed warning signs, the calls that came in to that sheriff's department, the warnings that were effectively ignored as well as the reports of his student resource officer and his deputies who didn't go into the school that Wednesday -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much, from Parkland.

All right. Joining us now, one of the Florida lawmakers calling on Sheriff Israel to resign. State Representative Jay Fant signed a letter with colleagues calling on Governor Scott to suspend Israel. So, Mr. Fant, good to see you.

You're also one of four Republicans currently running for state attorney general. So, Sheriff Israel has said he's not resigning, and now that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FDLE, is conducting an investigation, are you willing to wait until the findings of that investigation before the governor were to take action on the sheriff, if any action at all?

JAY FANT (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: We have seen enough from Sheriff Israel on this very network yesterday. He, in spite of all of the evidence that they ignored numerous contacts warning about Cruz, and the standing down of one to four deputies on site that could have prevented loss of life, Sheriff Israel yesterday said he has exhibited amazing leadership.

But, Fredricka, with amazing leadership comes amazing responsibility and amazing accountability. None of which he has embraced since this tragedy. Floridians are tired of the circus. It is time for him to resign.

WHITFIELD: So, the sheriff denies that there was an order of any kind of stand down. He himself said he's not even sure why the first resource officer didn't go in, whether he didn't ask that question, he said he didn't get the answer or explanation. You also have spoken to the governor about this letter, that you and your colleagues have sent, about considering a suspension. Have you heard from the governor?

FANT: To your prior point, Fredricka, this sheriff also has said I have given him a gun. I have given him a badge. If he doesn't have the heart to go in, it is not my responsibility. Sheriff, it is your responsibility to protect the children in that school and the citizens of Broward County.

The governor is keenly sensitive to what is happening in Broward. That's why he's launched the FDLE investigation. But it is not going to get better for Sheriff Israel, it is going to get worse. The Coral Springs report will come out later. I don't think it is going to look favorably upon the sheriff.

WHITFIELD: So, you don't think the FDLE investigation is enough? You actually wrote on Twitter that you want to have the attorney general appoint an outside prosecutor, to look into investigating matters. Why?

FANT: In Florida, we have under the Attorney General's Office something called a state-wide prosecutor that can come in and do an independent investigation. I think independence is what is needed right now. The sheriff should resign, there should be an investigation, it should be independent.

WHITFIELD: The governor has also sent out a list of proposals, how to make schools safer, one officer, you know, to every thousand students, raising the age of buying a rifle and other firearms in Florida from 18 to 21 are -- are you in agreement with that?

FANT: Some of the proposals are very good. We need to make sure our schools are armed, Fredricka, next time a would-be shooter comes on campus, they need to be first ones who are shot.

[11:10:08] Now, other aspects of the proposals remain to be seen as we go into legislation. Some involve curtailment, some constitutional rights, obviously, I will be against that. But ones that work, the solutions that work, protecting the children, we're going to move forward into the legislature and pass.

WHITFIELD: All right. State Representative Jay Fant, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

FANT: Thank you.

WHITFIELD:. All right. So, Congress comes back to session later on today with more pressure to get something done on gun control. Joining me right now Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So, one of your colleagues, David Cicilline is planning to introduce an assault weapons ban in the House. Do you have any confidence if that's going to win enough support?

MEEKS: I don't. I hope that it would, but I don't even given this climate because I see so many of my Republican colleagues, particularly entrenched as well as the president, with the NRA, and they are clearly not moving forward.

WHITFIELD: But are there some signals being sent to you even from the president while he has, you know, garnered and -- you know, $30 million in support on the campaign trail, he is saying, and he is separating himself from the NRA saying he wants age limits raised.

MEEKS: Well, I want to see him come out affirmatively and talking about raising age limits, if he's talking about ending bump stocks, talking about better background checks, I'll work with the president on those things.

I think we need all of those things. I think we need more. I think we need assault ban, the ban of assault weapons. We had ten years of assault ban weapons here. And that were -- if you look at that time, you didn't see as many mass shootings that took place.

If you look at other Democratic and civilized places like Australia, Japan, you see that they put in assault ban, you don't see these kinds of mass shootings. Most places in Europe you don't see these kinds of ban shootings. They have mental health problems there, other issues there also as we do. They don't have the mass killings problems that we have. We never won on that.

WHITFIELD: One of the other proposals the president has made is, arming teachers, arming those who are adept to firearms. We heard from his daughter, Ivanka, while she was overseas saying it is not a bad idea, something that needs to be explored. Does that have a chance in Congress?

MEEKS: I think it does not make sense. If you ask law enforcement officials, whether they want people out on the streets with assault weapons, they say they could outgun law enforcement, people that are trained, outfitted to protect us, they are outgunned by these kinds of weapons.

That's known if you just arm someone in a school, these weapons still can overpower them. So, the best way and the most important way to keep our young people safe and at concerts and other places or going to clubs, is if people did not have access to assault weapons that are made for one 2purpose, the mass killing of human beings.

And I think that's what you hear out of American public is making right now, we have got to prevent these mass killings and the mass killings can only happen with these assault style weapons.

WHITFIELD: We're seeing amazing passion coming from these survivors, from Parkland, Florida. Is it your worry that what they went through after this week or even a month from now, if there isn't action in Congress now, that what they went through might be forgotten?

MEEKS: Well, I think that those young people will not let it be forgotten. I think that what I'm seeing happen, they are looking -- those who are 17, they're not waiting for someone to ask them for a voter registration form. They're going and saying I want my voter registration form.

They understand this is a movement that they may not be able to vote today, but in a year, or two years, definitely they will be able to vote. And they will be focused on growing that and other friends and relatives of similar age so that they're going out to vote, I think that's what's going to make a difference. They understand that there has to be some change, real change, that only comes at the polling place.

WHITFIELD: After Sandy Hook, there wasn't widespread legislation that really moved the needle federally. But instead a lot of states took the initiative, we're seeing the federal governor making these proposals. The president is meeting with governors today in the White House.

Is it your feeling that states really do have to take it upon themselves because there is just too much rancor in the Senate, in Congress, in order to get anything done?

MEEKS: I definitely think that certain states, I know my state of New York has decided that it -- it has taken a big stance to that regard. But I think it is important for us, you know, for all Americans, across east, west, north, south, middle America, that we got to make sure that all Americans are safe.

[11:15:03] And the best way to do that in my estimation that we don't have these mass shootings again is to take away the weapon that causes mass killings. That's how we make sure that our children are safe, that's how we make sure that we eliminate mass killings if you take away weapons that causes mass killings.

PAUL: That's the big obstacle because the interpretation from some is taking away all the weapons by restricting the access or availability of some.

MEEKS: Which is clearly not the intent. You know, my family comes from the south, they hunt, they have guns, et cetera. You know, most law enforcement people, I don't understand why we don't ask them, those are the individuals that help keep us safe.

If you go to most law enforcement, the people that are -- have the responsibility to keep us safe day in and day out, whether or not they want people to have access to mass weapons, they will tell you if they do or not.

WHITFIELD: Well, maybe more of that consultation will take place this go round. Congressman, good to see you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right. We are keeping an eye on the White House. Right now, the president is meeting with the nation's governors talking about how to stop gun violence in America in the wake of that horrible shooting in Florida. We should hear from the president at any moment. We'll bring that to you.

Plus, the president is firing back at the newly released Democratic intelligence memo that counters GOP claims of spying abuse. Trump is calling it a nothing. We'll dig into details on that coming up.



WHITFIELD: President Trump speaking right now with a group of governors visiting the White House for their annual winter meeting. The topic on everyone's mind, gun control. A new CNN poll shows 7 out of 10 Americans are now in favor of tightening gun laws in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting. Congress is also likely to debate that issue as the House and Senate reconvene in the coming hours.

A lot to talk about. Let's bring in CNN political reporters, Nia Malika Henderson and Rebecca Berg. Good to see you, Ladies. So, Nia, you first, Congress is once again under a lot of pressure to act. This new CNN poll showing that the public wants something done. Will GOP leaders act if the president, you know, keeps making these demands and proposals? NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, we have seen this before, right, with contentious issue, gun control, in prior -- in prior instances. We have seen it with issues like repealing and replacing Obamacare and even with DACA, the president making it known what he wanted to see.

In Congress, individual members of Congress going their own way. I think those dynamics are still at play here. Conservatives on the House side unlikely to really want to do anything that looks like gun control.

And then you've got red state Democrats in the Senate side who are up for re-election in states like West Virginia, states like Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota who also are probably very skiddish in terms of wanting to back anything that looks like gun control.

I think the main backdrop is 2018, there's an election coming up, Democrats are nervous in the House and they want to stick to their positions too in terms of gun control. So, I think the president here likely won't be a factor.

It's not clear yet what he really wants to push for as sort of the leading policy proposal other than these very minor fixes to the background check system, which really would be encouraging states and local municipalities to do what they're already really supposed to do.

WHITFIELD: Yes, which really leads me to my next question, Rebecca, because after Sandy Hook Elementary, no one doubted that there would be some sweeping changes nationally. Instead, some states did what they could. Does Congress feel that doing nothing will be a lot more costly?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in an election year, and Nia mentioned this in her response, Fred, I mean, this is a key crucial midterm election, it is going to be a very tough year potentially for Republicans and so their cost benefit analysis right now is going to be -- is it worth doing something potentially to -- that could upset their base, their most passionate voters, at a time when they need those people to turn out in an election cycle.

I think the key here is also looking at the range of potential policy changes that you could see proposed by Congress. You have Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Republican leadership on the Senate side, working with Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, on a bill that would try to address the national criminal background check system, trying to make some small fixes to the system that could have prevented, for example, the Sutherland Springs shooting last year.

They'll say, look, we did something, but many Democrats and some Republicans would say that's not doing enough to address the problem. And so big wild card here is going to be the president and how far does he push this, how aggressively does he use thinks political capital to try to get more done on this key issue.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's turn to Ivanka Trump now overseas and being asked about a variety of things and among those things, she was asked about the women who accused her father of sexual misconduct and this is how she handled the question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your father's accusers?

IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think it is a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he's affirmatively stated that there is no truth to it. I don't think that's a question you would ask many other daughters. I believe my father, I know my father, so I think I have that right as a daughter.


WHITFIELD: So, Nia, a daughter and a senior adviser. So, was it inappropriate?

HENDERSON: No, I think what she meant is that it is an uncomfortable question for her because she is her father's daughter.

[11:25:10] Because she's also someone who has spoken out, right, and talked about other accusers. She's talked about the Roy Moore accusers, for instance, and said that they should be essentially be believed.

So, this idea that somehow this is an inappropriate question for her is ridiculous. It was a terrible response on her part. Instead of offering a full-throated defense of her father, she looked nervous and uncomfortable in that moment.

But it certainly wasn't an inappropriate question and we have seen this before, Hillary Clinton got plenty of questions about her husband's accusers and things that went on --

WHITFIELD: Shouldn't have been surprised.

HENDERSON: That's the thing. It is a really odd response from her and, listen, if someone sits down with her again, she'll get the same questions. This is what it means to be part of the Trump family.

WHITFIELD: Right. And so, Rebecca, she has inserted herself in the conversation in the broad conversation before, she tweeted out after Oprah, you know, had her speech and she talked about, you know, being inspired, and galvanized, the whole me too, times up movement, so why was this different for her. I mean, why does she feel like this was just too close, too personal?

BERG: It was different, Fred, because it was a tough question. Ivanka Trump was trying to have it both ways. She wants to be portrayed as a serious policy adviser to her father, not as a daughter, she does that.

When she gets a tough question, about her father's behavior, she recedes into the daughter role, and it is completely inconsistent. And you also have to remember that Ivanka Trump as an adviser to her father, as a White House senior staffer has tried to take on portfolio that includes women's issues.

That includes fighting for women, championing equal pay, championing child care, child leave policies. So, for Ivanka Trump to say in this case that she's just a daughter, and not in a place to answer this question is ridiculous on its face.

WHITFIELD: As a senior adviser, she's representing the president who happens to be her father, but, you know, her role is much bigger than being the daughter. All right, Nia Malika Henderson, Rebecca Berg, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right. After weeks of back and forth, the House Intelligence Committee finally releasing a memo refuting claims that the FBI overreached. What the new memo says about when the FBI started investigating Trump campaign associates, next.